Summary (from goodreads.com):
Two people facing crossroads in their lives discover friendship and love in this touching novella by fan favorite Harlequin Superromance author Sarah Mayberry.
Leah Mathews has always been the good sister, the favored one who could do no wrong. But as her thirtieth birthday looms, she’s ready to step out of her parents’ shadow and make changes in her life. She’s even more inspired by the sexy musician who moves in next door and his seize-the-day attitude. And tempted to take comfort in his arms…
Will Jones is facing the prospect of losing the career he loves–and possibly his life–to a sudden illness. When he meets Leah, he feels a powerful connection to her, and flirting with a smart, beautiful woman seems like the perfect way to spend the weeks before his risky operation.
But as their relationship heats up, Leah still doesn’t know the truth about Will’s situation. Will their bond be strong enough to face the challenges yet to come?
If someone had handed me a copy of this book and said, “Would you like to read a romance novel in which one of the protagonists is secretly suffering from a life-threatening illness?” I would have said, “Hell no.” Not even a guaranteed happily ever after can wash the Nicholas Sparks stench from that offer. (This is not a judgment of the many people who like Nicholas Sparks. His books are just not my cup of tea.)
But, if that same someone had said, “Would you like to read a romance novel by that delightful Australian woman who writes for Neighbours and gave that great interview on the DBSA podcast? The main character is an anxious overachiever who’s finally trying to take control of her life. Also, there will be a Tortured Hero, and lots of things that remind you of all of those Brené Brown TED talks on vulnerability and shame you’ve been watching lately, and you will want to re-read it pretty much the moment you’re done,” I would have said “YES PLEASE.”
Needless to say, I read the whole book in one sitting once I figured out what was going on there.
Do not be put off by the Harlequin Superromance thing, if you are wary of category romances like I was after trying several that just did not do it for me. Thanks to some recommendations on the aforementioned DBSA podcast, I discovered that there are some GREAT category romance authors out there. Sarah Mayberry is one of them. I will now be reading her entire backlist. The only downside is that libraries traditionally don’t collect categories, so I will be paying out of pocket for the pleasure.
Discovering that there’s a whole world of great contemporary romances waiting in Harlequin’s category lines has been a very pleasant surprise. I’ve been having trouble finding contemporary romances that aren’t all about small towns, marriage, and babies. (Nice things, but not what I want from my life at the moment, which makes it difficult for me to properly enjoy the story.) Last winter, I learned that I need to hit up Avon when I’m craving a good historical. Now I have a source to feed the contemporary cycle of my addiction.
Also, the heroes in both Mayberry books I’ve read so far are strong, confident, and sexy as hell, but they are not stereotypical alpha males. Have I talked about how sick I am of stereotypical alpha male romance heroes? I am so. sick. of them. (Especially when they are also billionaires.) It’s so incredibly refreshing to read about men who treat the women in their lives as equals. No protecting, no possessing. Do you know how rare that is in Romancelandia? It’s the generic equivalent of the kakapo.
Not to mention the fact that Zach, the hero in Her Favorite Rival (the companion novel about Leah’s sister, Audrey, which you should also read), is super buff because he’s a runner. He runs, like, 10k a day. None of this “I have abs of steel without trying” bs. It’s awesome.
If that didn’t sell you: contemporary romance set in Australia. Melbourne is now #2 on my dream vacation list. (Paris is first and Amsterdam/Scotland have slid down to 3rd/4th place.) The only downside to this book, as far as I’m concerned, is that Will wrote a love song for Leah. I find the whole concept so off-putting that I had to reassure myself that–should I happen to fall in love with an internationally renowned musician–I can make him promise never to commit such an atrocity against me. But that’s my own personal pet peeve.
In short: highly recommended to anyone who likes a good non-inspirational contemporary romance.
1.5/4 chili peppers